Ok, so to finish the trek…..
After the clouds rolled in on Kala Patar, we headed down as we knew we had another pass, Cho La, the next day to head to. We said goodbye to Scott as he was headed back to Namche and we headed to Dzonglha, the town right before the pass which sits at the foot of Cholatse (pretty amazing views). The whole way there it was raining and totally overcast. In fact, a pretty miserable day to be trekking! On our way there, we ran into Ben – as he was pretty much doing the same trek as we were doing. He gave us some books (i kept running out of reading material!!!) and told us about the passes we were about to go over. We would have loved to hang out and talk more — but the weather was miserable so we headed off.
We reached Dzonglha (population – two trekking houses) just as the weather cleared a bit for views of Cholatse and Ama Dablam. But soon it clouded over again and started to snow!!! We went to bed that night thinking it wouldn’t be a problem and we would head over the pass in the morning…..
Which was not the case.
It went on to snow for the next 14+ hours….. we spent the ENTIRE day sitting in the sunroom of the guesthouse – waiting for the snow to stop. waiting for our next meal. waiting for them to start the dung heater (it was damn cold up there). We played farkle. we read. we played gin rummy. we drank milk tea. we stared into space. we were intrigued by the other group snowbound – 3 germans who did NOT talk to us at all (one of which spent the entire day laying down on the bench in the sunroom covered by a comforter). We listened to avalanches coming off the mountains around us. Needless to say, it was a LONG day!!!!
We weren’t sure what we were going to do — should we head over the next day? At one point, there was word that someone had come over the pass in the storm – though we didn’t talk to them since they were at the other guesthouse. But the guide came over and there was lots of talk in Nepali about what had happened and gesturing at us since we were hoping to go over the pass the next day. We weren’t sure if they wanted us to hire the guy or what…. but we figured we could make it ourselves (not really knowing the path or or how much snow or any of those important details!).
The next morning we woke to amazingly clear skies, 8-12 (or more) inches of new snow (down low) and brilliant mountains in every direction! It was beautiful! So, off we went. For a while it went well….. we could find of see the indentation of the trail. Until we couldn’t…. At one point, the two of us were standing in the middle of this valley – knowing we had to go up, but which way…. all of a sudden – we heard a sharp whistle from down in the valley – there was the guide who had come over the pass the previous day – he was headed home and willing to show us the way!
We encouraged him to go at his own pace (mine was way slower!) and we would just follow in his tracks – but he stayed with us (or rather, waited for us) all day. And it was a long day…. we were postholing. Sometimes sinking into drifts of snow that was mid-thigh depth. The sun was so damn bright and hot (after complaining all those days that we had no sun….). There were avalanches all around us (or at least on the mountains around us). We were the first people going over the pass — and though neither Katherine or I was breaking trail, it was still incredibly hard work.
The pass itself was beautiful – we reached it once we crossed a small glacier (at which point we were really glad we were following the guide – and by guide, I mean he was a dude who worked at a guesthouse that was on the otherside of the pass!). We could see mountains all around us, though it did start to cloud up in the distance (so no everest!). Then we started down — which we thought – oh, good, going down can’t be as hard…. wrong again.
Plunge stepping into what is technically a scree field and postholing, slipping and sliding is not actually fun, in case you were wondering! It was brutal. Then we had to go back up a hill that had not just one false summit, but 3! oh, it was rough. and long. and I got slower and slower (buddy asked if I wanted him to take my pack – I must have looked that drained…. ) Finally, 8+ hours later – we made it to Tagnag (the collection of guesthouses just over the pass). We had intended to go further to Gokyo (another 2+ hours) but we opted for food, milk tea and sleep instead!
The next day we were back on track and headed to Gokyo – crossing the Ngozumpa Glacier – which extends down from Cho Oyu. It was a huge glacier crossing with some sketch moments of rockfall – since it was yet another beautiful day. But, within two hours we were in the beautiful village of Gokyo – which is set on one of the sacred lakes and surrounded by mountains. Absolutely stunning. Since we got there early in the day, we picked a guesthouse down by the lake and we were able to do laundry and dry ourselves and our clothes out in the sun. But Renjo La, our third pass awaited us.
We thought we would head out the next day – but no one had been over yet. And following our experience on Cho La, we were not looking forward to being the first over. Plus, we woke up the next morning to clouds over the pass – so we figured we wait out another day to make our decision. At this point, we were tired, hungry (it was hard to eat enough to not feel hungry all the time!), and Katherine had come down with a cold. A rest day would not do us harm. But, we were still undecided about what to do.
Finally, 3 people came over the pass, dropping into Gokyo. They reported a story similar to ours – postholing, slipping, tough navigating. At that – we made up our minds. Head down the Gokyo valley to Namche. There are plenty of times when we have to go a certain way to get out of the woods (or have to follow kids for 8 hours in the rain through the notch). But here, we didn’t have to do anything — we could just head down the valley and head out. So we did. Peace out Renjo La.
The next day we hightailed it to Namche. We were pretty excited to get there — veggie burgers, coffee, apple turnovers, chocolate cake, apple strudel, cheese. We were hungry and we spent about 12 hours there eating (did I mention that it was hard to get enough calories and to feel full while we were trekking? by that point in the trekking, i felt like i could eat every two hours and then, maybe, feel full).
But, unfortunately, we still weren’t done. We still had 4 or 5 more days to go…..
To be continued…..